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Creation And Evolution in Buddhism

Creation and Evolution

Creation occurs repeatedly throughout time in cycles. In the beginning of each cycle, land forms, in darkness, on the surface of the water. Beings who populated the universe in the previous cycle are reborn; some of them become the “new” humans in the new universe. Suffering and misery reigns. That is where we stand today. Eventually, the universe breaks down; all living creatures return to the soul life, and the cycle repeats. This is essentially the same as the Big Bang/Big Crunch theory, only integrating the ideas of reincarnation and karma. This is once again a remnant of Buddhism’s basis in Hinduism. Although there are minor differences in details, most Buddhists believe these essential ideas or something close.

There is no Creator god. There is no “Creation” in the usual Christian-like way of looking at it. Some older Buddhist stories do indeed involve some kind of god or gods making the creation happen. Today, these are generally accepted as symbolic stories and allegories for the more scientific “Big Bang” theory mentioned above.

For the same reasons, most Buddhists also accept the theory of Evolution. Simple life forms evolved and changed until the creatures we know today existed.

As I mentioned in the review of the Dalai Lama’s book a few days ago, he, as well as most Buddhists, accepts scientific thought over Buddhist myths whenever there are conflicting ideas or theories. This is why Buddhism is usually considered the most logical and rational of belief systems.

21 comments to Creation And Evolution in Buddhism

  • truth seeker

    From what you stated, In the beginning of each cycle, land forms, in darkness, on the surface of the water,… simple life forms evolved abd changed until creatures …existed.

    How did the land, darkness, water, and simple life forms come into existence? If they were created by the “Big Bang” what was in existence to make the big bang? What is the starting point for all this. I really ask for better understanding.

  • OK, it’s not really exactly like the Big Bang theory; it doesn’t go anywhere near that far, but it is obviously cyclical in the same way. The universe begins and ends in a regular fashion, only the details between their stories and our science differ a bit.

    I don’t remember any official doctrine behind what you are asking. I suspect that in those days they just didn’t have any real conception of a “planet” or “universe” in the way we do today. On the bottom was water, and the land was on top of that. If land forms on top of the water, that’s gotta be the beginning right? Nothing could be under all that water!!!

    Just my logical guess. If anyone knows any better, please post it!

  • Your thinking is not based on facts as the theory like ‘Big Bang’ was already anticipated in the fifth or sixth century a.d. by Dignaga a Buddhist logician in his text Pramanasamuccaya which is unfortunatly lost and presently preserved only in Tibetan language. According to this source the most of the theory such as theory of relativity,Law of motion, Gravition and the present one like big bang so on have been anticipated by him in fifth century. According to this text the creation and evolution are corelative just like theory of relativity. You can not imagine evolution without creation and vis versa. The seed is sprout as weel as sprout is seed both are corelated. In another way if there is no karma or action then there is no result such as birth, old age and death] and without death there is no another birth thus all these are co-relatated. The one verse of the Pramanasamuccaya of Dignaga is refferred here for your clarification of doubts- sa-vyapara pratitatatvat pramabnam phalameva sat, it means we can not draw any conclusion without the action as whatever we percieve that is only a image or symbol nothing else therefore only the result exists not the means of cognition. Things can not be cognises without action. this is the thought.

  • roman

    Not sure what to say but it looks like the responses from the author are a bit inaccurate. How I am supposed to read this “the most of the theory such as theory of relativity, Law of motion, Gravition and the present one like big bang so on have been anticipated “? What is meant by ‘so on’, or anticipated? What counts as someone anticipating Big Bang or theory of relativity ? Hmmm. Big claims, in my view, little substance. Another one-
    “As I mentioned in the review of the Dalai Lama’s book a few days ago, he, as well as most Buddhists, accepts scientific thought over Buddhist myths whenever there are conflicting ideas or theories. This is why Buddhism is usually considered the most logical and rational of belief systems”. It seems that the author did not read Aquinas. He stated explicitly there should be no conflict between what is scientifically and what theology states. The common and popular views disseminated by popular press and other ‘ popular sources’ contribute rather to the confusion, not to say deepen the misinterpretation. Of course, over the ages there was plenty of misguided Christian wise men unfortunately contributing to the wrong image of the creed. But I guess such interpretations would be found on both sides. A claim in the statement “This is why Buddhism is usually considered the most logical and rational of belief systems” is so unsubstantiated that it is even difficult to comment. Anyone who would read Aquinas, Augustine, Boethius or even medieval scholastics, not to mention modern voices like JPII, Maritain, Gilson would buckle at this claim. I am not sure why the believe in multiple levels of reincarnation and begin less Universe are so rational and logical. Existence of the multiple universes or conflating and expanding universe was a theory created to counter the Big Bag theory ( as it was too theological in its meaning – will provide references on request) , and had nothing to do to prove itself. In fact it was disproved as merely a mathematical hypothesis . So, the posting has a lot of claims, sweeping, universal statements but little facts. Sorry.

  • Anonymous

    There is no oxegyn in space,so there wouldnt have been a “Big bang”. There wouldnt have been any sound . The expanding universe does not contrass the big bang theory, simple states the we, life, the world ,universe is multiplying, growing. I have spent most of my life searching for the big answers to life, searching for something ,someone, some higher being, to give me meaning for a greater exsistance .. This is a very long ,hard ,endless road. Can a flower define what gives it lif? Or a bird? A lion? We think how foolish a question, yet we consistantly do, call it religon, and rage war. Yet we need to look at nature and see the beauty of it all, each stage, each cycle. And vibrate on the same peaceful level. We need to live our lives in the now, not chase rainbows, but enjoy the beauty of them.

  • Rouchireur

    I would like to initiate a new idea, based of course on Buddhist theory. ( Although I will not quote) We do accept the infinite future of existence as given. Buddhism speaks of an infinite Samsara to get out of which, you have to take effort. Other religions just accept infinite existence. If we are ready to accept an infinite future so readily, why do we contest a possibility of an infinite past?

    A single act of “Creation” from whence all came from – makes the assumption that “everything is finite” – thereby needing a concrete start and finish. An infinite past takes a single start/creation out of the equation. It equates the past with the future and brings forth the present, in which real creation and existence both happen.

  • pradeep daryao borkar

    samyak way to approach buddhism through science

  • ethana2

    I think there’s definitely a degree of folly to questions like the origin of existence, but only for sure up until we’ve figured out what all is in existence. In other words, I think that if and when all theoretical predictions are experimentally verified and all experimental observations are theoretically accounted for, we will for the first time have a foundation from which asking the question of existence itself will begin to be legitimate– which is part of why i’m so thrilled about cosmology and physics. If Buddhism is committed to accepting science wherever it speaks, then I would definitely call it too rational for the term “religion”.

    I personally think that matter cannot be created or destroyed at a different time than its native frame of reference, and that existence is relative; it’s meaningless to say that something exists unless it is in our multiverse, because it doesn’t exist relative to us, and we don’t exist relative to it.. So ultimately, creation can happen any moment, without violating my understanding of the universe, as long as its results are undetectable from an external vantage point and ultimately meaningless. What I’m most interested in is not the existence of matter so much as the laws that of physics that underpin it.

  • Curious

    According to the Big Bang Theory, life and everything in the universe is nothing more than the coming together of atoms—everything is physical. When we die, the molecules in our bodies break down, and we simply cease to exist. There is no life after death, no such thing as the non-physical world (such as spirit, life force, karma, etc.). According to Buddhism, which part of us “lives on,” so to speak, and reincarnate? At which point do humans transform from the physical to the non-physical state of being?

  • Scott

    Buddhism is done. It’s over. The big bang took care of that. There is no bounce or repeating Universe.


  • Duncan

    Hmmm as I am pondering the idea of religion and of Buddhism there are some very interesting thoughts in here. Thanks for sharing.

    Scott I think you need to broaden your horizons a bit but respect what you have to say all the same. OH MANI PADE HUM

  • Pablo Bianchi

    Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. So God could
    not had created nothing, therefore there is no God or Gods. Buddha was very correct according to modern discoveries about the nature of the universe.

  • As we don’t know how much mass is actually in the universe we can’t tell whether the universe will keep expanding as it currently is or fall back in on itself if there is enough mass or it could just plateau, in the end as the Buddha said it is a waste of time really whether in expands contracts or remains we will all be dead well before it happens. As for the question on souls kamma etc just because something isn’t detected yet doesn’t mean its not there keeping with mass a great portion of the universe’s mass is from dark matter we cannot detect it but we’re sure its there.

  • Dave

    Life is atoms coming together that’s correct, every thing is physical well maybe. Air is made of atoms yet with your naked eyes you can not see it? To think that there are other things that your eyes can not see that are equally essential to life is not that irrational when you think of it? Also the laws of physics state that energy can not be created or destroyed it is only transferred I.E there is a finite amount of energy in the cosmos when one thing dies the energy does not dissapear it is transferred into another life be it a plant or animal human or other. That is reincarnation on a scientific leaval that is completely undeniable its a proven fact. That is the importance for love and compation for all animals not just because we are all seeking happiness in the universe but the energy inside that creature could be the very energy that once resided inside a relative or loved one. It’s a cycle that continues untill enlightenment and when all are enlightened the cycle must continue and so it is and always has been.

  • Siddharth

    The Big bang is just one of the theories of which the human mind finds logical. With the discovery of counter-intuitive laws like Quantum physics, we have understood how complex things are and how interconnected everything is. We must also question then the ‘question of creation’. Buddhism is a doorway to breaking through our mind and feeling the wonder of Nature and our interconnect!

  • Thushara

    The concept of God comes from the weakness of individuals mind. Buddhism is 500 years older than Jesus Christ and instead of talking about creation Buddhism has revealed a more logical approach even compared to the modern cosmology and all the sciences. Evolution was discovered by Charles Darvin and it is very logical and does not contradict with the teachings of Buddhism.
    Present day physics has so much of things which are still does not contradict with the Buddhism. All we can do is to learn and Understand who really we are and what the Universe is. I personally do not have enough logic to justify all mighty God concept and the creation.
    Also i recommend you to follow up with Dr Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist and the Eienstien in our age. He has lot of videos on YouTube regarding modern and future cosmology and physics. I wish you the enlightenment.

  • Dolphy

    Lets say if God created the universe. who created God, who created the creator? God cant say that, and cant proof that. What does buddhism mean is everything had a way to created it. If you want to find it, follow buddhism or follow the way that buddhism does. You dont need to believe it, when you find out it, you will know where, when of the beginning, and how things created.

  • Ryan

    (because big bang is a repeating universe, expanding contracting? Do your research before you bash other religions to make yourself feel better about being christian)

  • Buddhakai

    Buddhism is done? Due to the big bang theory? Ok. That seems a little pompous, and ridiculous. Since the big bang, supports the expanding/contracting theory, I fail to see how this would codemn buddhism at all in any way shape or form. Do your homework before you make arrogant statements condemning the religions of others just because they’re not your own. I accepted jesus as my “personal savior” (what a crock) and my life got progressively worse and worse as I prayed in vain, until of course I found buddhism, which allowed me to deal with my issues without judging them. Creation really doesn’t even bear any significance as far as buddhism is concerned, since it’s all about how to live your life, not ask, “Oh why are we are we here? What are the secrets of the universe? Does god love me?” Blah blah blah. I have better things to do thankyou.

  • The most basic concept of Buddhism is “the law of karma”. Karma can either be conllective (i.e the karma of a group of sentient beings)or individual. All phenomena,whether in physical form or nor physical form are the effects of the action of karma (collective and/or individual). All planetary worlds/universes were/are formed by the collective karma of the sentient beings in their respective planetary worlds/universes. The sentient beings
    can be in human form or other living being forms and/or in the forms that cannot be seen with our naked eyes. The sky/space is beginless and endless and there are endless of universes and planetary worlds. How the karma works is inconceiveable and cannot be measured or discussed with our level of knowledge.

  • Nathan

    Please read this with the great respect I intend.
    The Bible says that Jesus was there in the beginning, when the earth was formed. In fact, it says nothing was made except through him. I believe it and I’m willing to be called weak though actually his power lives in me. Are you willing to accept that your statement may be wrong and you may be in need of him?
    I don’t have all I need of myself. I am amazingly created and wonderfully complex in body and mind but there is a God whose weakness is greater than our greatest strength. We do not have the answer, but the answer can live inside of us when we put our faith in the Son of God.